I read through this article on the future of education nodding. Then I read through the comments laughing. It’s hilarious to hear older generations talk about the reasons us youth can’t find jobs. They’re all over the idea that many of us are unemployed because we don’t like hard work, are unable to delay gratification, and unable to focus. I’m not saying I disagree. We can be pretty expectant, lazy SOBs that forsake long term successes for short term pleasures. But wait just a damn minute…we’ve also demanded our world function in exactly this way.
We’ve grown up with a morbid understanding that we’re all living on borrowed time and that guns or governments or melting icecaps are going to pinch our flame any day now, so the pleasure seeking behaviour our parents and grandparents are so disgusted by is second nature to us. I’ve come to terms with the fact that we’ve probably witnessed a sharp break from the attitudes of the baby boomer generation and any generation that follows it. Just like the cataclysmic break in the 20s when those nasty flappers came kicking their exposed legs and boozy jazz into the community halls of their more refined elders and turning respectability into something passé. Just like every shift in consciousness that formed as a result of major advancements or tumultuous changes affecting our species.
“Now or I’m bored! Now until I’m bored.“ —The Cry of Our Generation
This particular chasm probably split open like a peach with the introduction of the internet. And the trend will probably continue till the internet gets knocked right the fuck out and we have to start at square one again building fires in dingy caves. You better hunker down and get prepared, friend.
Shake Up Your World
Alright. Let’s talk about school. Even though Bryan Goldberg hits you pretty hard with the “university will probably never be worth it” douche mallet, I have to somewhat agree with him, but only as far as returning to school to upgrade is concerned. I know a ton of super talented, highly educated folks who are now floundering to find jobs with companies who aren’t even looking. Companies that have been forced to downsize and outsource talent, or corporations that are actually completely hollow. They’re branded to look like they run hundreds of employee salaries, but they contract and outsource overseas to reduce costs and increase revenue. Their actual staff is somewhere in the double digits, and it’s those hard working CEOs raking in all the dimes. There is no room for eager, almost middle-aged graduates in business such as this. Not unless your daddy owns a slough of luxury real estate and even then…I watched that documentary Queen of Versailles. It doesn’t bode well.
‘Get’ Your Education
Kids in high school who are constantly told to “get your education” are entering universities with dreams and glitter in their eyes, hoping to god they’ll have something to show for it when they get out. I would say that unless you’ve known from age five that you wanted to sew people back together or run marathons or race camels don’t just ‘go to school;’ unless you have a brilliant plan for how you’re going to shout your name from a mountain top, study job trends and see if camel racing is even a recognized profession, don’t just ‘go to school’. Plan your B and your C and even your F just in case. Even if they’re insane things like joining a bacterial colony or training as a mackerel fisherman.
And if you do decide to go to school, figure out which program is the right fit. Not all degrees are created equal. I’d definitely take school for occupations that would see you in jail if you failed to get a degree, unless you’re extremely brave or stupid.
Then figure out what you have—the shit that makes you more fun and less annoying than all those other other schmucks on Linkedin. Making things is one way to stand out. You have to upset the whole system and rethink how people can interact with the products and services around them. They’re called disruptive economies. This is why there is a market for $35 hand sharpened pencils by cartoonists, guys. Truth is, we are craving the tactile beauty we take for granted in a mass-produced, virtual and monopolized market. We are mixing our blood with our work—finely crafting the things we do—and to our generation (and certainly older generations) that is what makes those things worth buying or sharing. We’re waking up.
Don’t Go Back To School
Today if I had the guts, I would tell my friends: “don’t go back to school.” At least not because they want a new job. Maybe fifteen years ago they could. Maybe even five. But now? Now for many people, all this extra education does is sink you with thousands of dollars worth of debt and suffocating feelings of panic that you will never be able to find the right job to pay it off. Because going back to school buys us time, right? We go to school because it buys us a little extra time to postpone the panic and numbness that sets in when we’re told our job has evaporated or we want a career change but we don’t know where to start. Plus it provides us a manageable linear curriculum to get lost in, which offsets the panic until we have to start thinking about loan payments. I respect that these people made the decision to continue their education, especially if they feel like they made the right decision. It’s a tough situation, and I would feel tempted to do that if my job vanished, too. But I won’t apologize for saying what I feel. Sometimes you need to go back to school—and when it pays off, you get the feedback to justify it. Sometimes you don’t.
We just have to face the reality that our educational system in slack economies can’t guarantee all that hard work you spend getting smarter will actually yield you anything except debt. And not to rant, but that’s because our debt is spinning out of control, while middle-sized job makers are being taxed and told they can’t afford to hire. We’re holding our breath, but we haven’t changed any of the economic wiring that got us here in the first place. There is no accountability from the government who is in bed with the corporations who claim to be job makers, while the real job makers are incidentally being squeezed out and shut down by empty, ubiquitous brand makers.
Corporations are pulling strings to make sure they keep bringing in more dollars and there are only two ways to do that. One: cut costs. Two: cut labour. Since your position would prevent them from meeting their bottom line next quarter, this means you aren’t getting a job. It’s why we let workers in Bangladesh burn alive in sewing factories. It’s why we can drop cheap things into our shopping carts that we throw away if we decide we don’t really like them. This strange lopsided gap between someone’s job opportunity and someone else’s bad job luck is somehow ensuring our world can keep on spinning in its jagged orbit.
So instead of going back to school to buy yourself time or start over, go learn things from books, or from the internet, or from friends, or from just trying your hand at something you’ve always been scared to try. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper. Even more reassuring is that job postings that don’t require a bachelor of anything are popping up on job sites more and more. And if those standard nine to five jobs aren’t what you’re looking for, create your own. Don’t let the old script saying “I need to go to school to get a job to buy a house and a car and have two point two kids so I can go on one trip every three years and save some retirement money so I can die“ rattle through your head make you cling to the past. This world is not the same world.
- car sharing programs (when all we were told is that we
needed to own our own car)
- vacation sharing property programs (when all we were told is we needed our own lot)
- affordable rent rather than $3000/mos mortgage payments (when all were told is we needed to own our own house)
- online learning courses (when all were told was that real learning only happened in the classroom)
- Wikipedia (when all we were told was that
the encyclopedia salesman was on his way)
The people who believed in those things are scared. Scared we might figure out alternative pathways to subverting the systems created years ago that were perfected, monetized, and then systematically allowed to control our day to day. I don’t know about you, but I’m not scared any more. I’m ready to flip over the chess game and make a new system where no one has to pay ridiculous dues just to earn a living.
Teaching You To Learn
I’m not done yet. What about the teachers you hawked spitballs at in school? Of course teachers are smart and necessary (I mean, I’m an educator—the degree says so), but in my humble opinion, we are meant to facilitate while instilling in our students a rabid hunger for knowledge. We’re not virtual encyclopedias. We teach you how to learn so you can get the information that is important to you. Knowledge is infinite and now readily available. Take advantage of that fact. Remember when you’d get in trouble for colouring outside the lines. That’s what you need to do to survive.
Don’t forget to thank your teacher for putting up with your asinine comments in grade ten. Ass.
Finally, be grateful for the fact that you actually have a choice not to go back to school. Your grandma probably sewed flour into mattresses so you might one day be able to become a neurosurgeon (which I don’t recommend doing without a degree). Don’t break her heart by telling her that schools are siphoning that tuition money up to wealthy, highly influential university presidents who are taking private funds from people like the Koch brothers. Just thank her for the flour, bake her a cake, and go learn software programming or something.
A Word of Caution
We will be catapulted back at least a hundred years when the proverbial economic and environmental shit hits the fan, and yes institutional knowledge will come in handy, but so will hand-eye coordination and the ability to build bush toilets. Going back to school still pales in comparison to the payoff of your burly hands elbow deep in creative juices. Trust me.
Telling You Twice
I’m telling you two things about school.
- If you need convincing that earning $200 000 in student loans, graduating, and then finding out there is no work for you is a bad idea, pay attention to things like the debt ceiling, failing banks and mergers, economic meltdowns, and real estate crashes. Those are telltale signs that the money you’re putting in won’t be coming back out. But you’ll still owe the bank and you’ll be paying it for the rest of your life, even if you have to sell your first born child.
- You don’t need to go to school to create a job that didn’t even exist three years ago. You just do it. If you want to sharpen artisan pencils for a living or make a flea circus, do it! That gift (one our parents and grandparents never had the luxury of gloating over) is the real gold we shouldn’t be squandering.
We don’t need school to do amazing things. We need school to foster a love of creativity and critical thinking in us so we can rewrite our understanding of the dirty word ‘job’.
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